NZDF Celebrates 25 Years of Open LGBT+ Service

7 February 2019

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), named in 2014 the world’s most inclusive military, is about to begin a year celebrating Pride 25, marking 25 years since lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) personnel were welcomed to serve openly.

A flyover by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion at Sunday’s Big Gay Out at Coyle Park, Point Chevalier, in Auckland is the first in a series of public events throughout the year that the NZDF will take part in to celebrate Pride 25. This will include the Wellington International Pride Parade on 16 March and a photo portrait exhibition in Auckland of current and past LGBT+ personnel.

“Pride 25 aims to remember those who had to once serve in silence in our Navy, Army and Air Force, to celebrate how far we have come, and to inspire our latest leaders across our Defence Force to continue efforts to make the NZDF a diverse and inclusive military,” Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short said.

Following the passing of the Human Rights Act in 1993, the NZDF moved swiftly to incorporate the Act into its policies, and in early 1994 openly homosexual men and women were able to join and serve.

In 2014 the NZDF was named by the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies as the world’s most inclusive military.

“It’s sad to reflect there was once a time in this country where people were legally discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality, including here at the Defence Force, where being homosexual was considered incompatible with service in uniform,” Air Marshal Short said.

“In those times lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff members were forced to hide their true selves from their Service and colleagues. And, of course, there were fine people who left us during that time because they didn’t feel welcome, safe or valued.

“Today, the NZDF is a global leader in military LGBT+ inclusion and as we reflect on how far we have come in 25 years, we think the transformation from exclusion to inclusion is worth sharing and celebrating.” 

The NZDF must continue its journey to become more inclusive and diverse, through programmes like Operation Respect, to make sure it was offering a welcoming and rewarding career to talented New Zealanders, Air Marshal Short said.

“Having a workforce with diverse backgrounds, skills, and thinking has been built into our strategy to ensure our Defence Force continues to succeed for New Zealand in the complex global security environment.

“The NZDF is a force for New Zealand.”

This page was last reviewed on 7 February 2019.